A Tip for Typers

This is a really simple tip if you want to communicate better (and who doesn’t?), but I suspect not everyone knows this.

typing

Yep, that’s my hand typing on a decent but not great keyboard.

The type of keyboard you use is important. It’s even more important if you use a keyboard to communicate with others.

Sometimes I type to communicate, although, mostly, I use my spoken voice today. But I remember some speech devices, despite being nice speech devices, just didn’t seem to work for me.

I use typing to communicate to break through a “block” that helps me communicate. I’m starting to think more and more that this is a form of initiation/continuation movement difference that I have, although I also realize that’s controversial. But, regardless of the reason, I find speech difficult sometimes, and I typically find typing easier.

So, why were some devices difficult to use? It’s simple: the keyboard. The more “mechanical” (and “clicky”) the keyboard, the easier I can type. I do worst with silent on-screen keyboards – they are almost as bad as speech! I do best with the old-style mechanical keyboards (think IBM, loud, heavy, and clicky). What I’m using now on my primary computer is a somewhat clicky (not nearly an IBM, but I don’t want to wake the neighbors), but much more firm action than the standard keyboards I was using – and I’m finding it’s much easier for me to think and continue my thinking process as I type.

The reason for me is simple – it’s about the rhythm. I’m not sure why rhythm matters, but it does. When I hear my rhythm, I can continue onto the next letter, word, sentence, paragraph. It may also be related to a discovery I made when I was a child – that if I blocked out outside noise, so I could only hear my own voice (such as hearing it amplified and played to me over headphones), I found it much easier to talk. I need that feedback.

And I suspect a lot of autistic people do. So if you use electronic devices to communicate, and you can try a different keyboard, do so. I recommend something like this keyboard although it may be beyond some people’s budgets for a keyboard (but, if you can afford something like this, but just think that it is too much money for a keyboard, consider that it may improve your communication – and make sure it’s still too much). Most keyboards have rubber domes – the current Apple keyboards, anything from Dell, etc, will use these. They don’t provide significant feedback.

If you use a tablet, I suggest turning on key clicks – just try it for a bit and see if it helps, or if it doesn’t. And consider trying to use a real keyboard as well and validate that the tablet input system really is the best input system for your unique needs. For me, tablets aren’t nearly as good as a real keyboard – and it’s not just that I’m a very fast touch typist, but rather that I get “blocked” when typing on them. I simply have a harder time getting words out (although key clicks being enabled help significantly).

If you are a parent or speech therapist, helping someone who uses electronic devices, I encourage you to try mechanical keyboards (the louder the better) and turning key clicking on, no matter how much some teacher might not like the clicking sound. If it doesn’t make a difference, switch back to something quieter. But if it does, you may be opening more communications for someone. That’s a really awesome thing and worth any amount of click noise.

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